While wearing your prettiest dress, talking about your awesome job and getting some conversation pointers from your significant other might help you make a good first impression on their parents, studies show that there are other factors that affect how your partner’s parents perceive you other than just, well, you. Since this interaction has major implications on the longevity of your relationship, it makes sense why meeting the parents is so nerve-wracking. But take a deep breath and just be yourself, because what the ‘rents think of you — for better or for worse — is somewhat out of your control, according to relationship expert and author of The Science of Happily Ever After, Ty Tashiro.
Why the first impression might not matter
“You can be a good person and have your partner’s parents dislike you because of factors completely out of your control,” Ty says. “A lot of parents might have problems in their own marriage or have a specific outcome of their child’s relationship in mind.”
Citing a study published in the Journal of Family Therapy, Ty says there are four prominent factors that determine what your S.O.’s parents think of you: the quality of their own marriage/relationship, the age of their child, the autonomy their child has in their family life and the quality of your relationship with their child. Yep, you really only control one out of four factors.
“Parents don’t realize that their marital quality is a filter for their perception of their son or daughter’s relationship,” Ty said. This means that if your partner’s parents have a negative relationship, they’re more likely to view your relationship negatively too. While there are exceptions, it also means that their positive relationship could cause them to consider you in a more positive light.
Science says parents’ approval is important in relationships
Even though you have shockingly little control over what your S.O.’s parents think about you, it’s no surprise that their view on your relationship is still very important. In fact, Ty says that there are statistical correlations between marital success and parental support. However, this support goes both ways: If a child discounts what his or her parents think about their relationship because they disapprove, the situation could negatively affect the parent/child relationship, not the other way around.
How to take back (some) control over the way they view you
1. Practice empathy. Ty says to put yourself in the shoes of your S.O.’s parents. In order to make a great first impression, respect that they’re in an inherently tough position.
2. Be respectful. “Ask yourself how you can be impressive and respectful at the same time,” Ty says. A no brainer: Follow their dress code. If you know they’re conservative or aren’t sure, wear something knee-length and don’t show too much cleavage. Also, keep the PDA to a minimum. Holding hands or putting an arm around your partner’s shoulder is okay, but making out or excessive touching is a no-no.
3. Talk up their son or daughter. You only have control of one factor — how your partner’s parents view your relationship. So make sure your mutual love and support comes through! Praise their kid’s manners or give them a glimpse into your relationship by telling them about something kind your S.O. did for you recently. Let them know that the person you both love deeply is in a fulfilling and positive relationship.
Did you rock meeting your S.O.’s parents? Let us know what you did to get their approval @BritandCo!
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